The Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) seized a whopping 2238 kilograms (4933lbs) of cannabis from January 1, 2022 to date. This shows a 475% increase in seizures when compared to the same period in 2021. In 2021, 471 kilograms of cannabis was seized.
In addition, in 2021, 11 kilograms of cocaine was seized but for the first half of 2022, the drug enforcement unit intercepted 89 (196lbs) kilograms. This showed a whopping 800% increase in seizures when compared to the corresponding period.
With respect to ecstasy, less than half a kilogram was intercepted. According to information received, 62 cases were made out against drug traffickers with 22 convictions to date.
However, of the drugs intercepted, 64 per cent were in Region Four (Demerara Mahaica) while 24 per cent were found in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), five per cent in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo). The remainder was found in Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice).
These seizures were done at wharves, rivers, farms, the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) and along roadways and on the premises of private properties.
Further, CANU has seized 16 firearms for the year thus far. Head of the drug enforcement unit, James Singh during a telephone interview with this publication praised the multi-agency approach that is taken to fight the drug traffickers.
“We have better coordination with the various agencies – the Guyana Police Force, The Guyana Revenue Authority and the Guyana Defence Force – and the results have been overwhelming… we also have international co-operation in terms of sharing intelligence, training of staff and other collaborations. Recently agreements signed by Minister Benn and his counterpart in Brasilia to strengthened cooperation and we have similar agreements with Colombia, Suriname and other countries.”
In addition, several other factors were helpful including the establishment of a maritime section, establishment of a joint container scanning unit, the presence of CANU at key locations across the country, and more importantly, improved relationship with the public.
“What we have seen for the past seven months, persons in the community coming forward to share information because they recognise that once the drugs get into their areas, it can cause harm… We have built a good rapport with the communities and this has turned out to be very useful,” Singh added.
Further, he related that the unit has been doing a lot more work with the Ministries of Health and Education to sensitise the public including in the schools about the various illegal drugs. He admitted that Guyana is a transhipment point and more focus is being placed in this area.
“The demand for the drugs is not here in Guyana but overseas…so what we have been doing is to make sure that our main ports of entry are well secured… when we have this type of security, persons must be conscious and hesitant to ship the drugs… we want to create that fear in the drug mules that if they attempt to smuggle the drugs, they will be caught.”
Singh nevertheless stated that there are concerns about the passage of ecstasy pills including Molly (a drug that is imported) into Guyana.
“These pills and Molly can easily be brought to Guyana by someone sending a barrel or any cargo… these can be easily slipped into and hidden among other items…our hope is to nip this in the bud so that the presence of these drugs can be detected before getting on the streets. Hence our close collaboration with customs officers at the various ports.”
On this, he noted that this is where the security at the various wharves and ports needs to be on the alert. Meanwhile, he explained that the Government through the Home Affairs Ministry has been providing the necessary resources to tackle and put a dent in the drug trade. “The performance of CANU is an example of the GoG desire to fight the drug trade in trade.”
Presently, the Unit has just over 100 staff who are spread across various regions of Guyana with the aim of executing its mandate. This has contributed to successful surveillance and apprehension of the so-called ‘big fishes’ in the business.